A.N.: Usual disclaimers apply. Piece is set prior to "A Bitter Pill" but after "All That Remains".
I'm almost certain Gamlen thinks I'm crazy, standing here in the pre-dawn light, asking for some of Mother's ashes. I know it isn't done in Kirkwall; ashes are not parsed out to grieving family members. Remains are to be left… complete. But I need to grieve and a funeral held within cold stone walls is not the way I wish to honor my mother.
There is a searching look in his eyes before he simply nods and takes the empty leather pouch from my hands. He leaves the door ajar, an unspoken invitation to come in but I remain in the cold just beyond the doorstep. The chill of the morning across my face is welcome proof that I can still feel something. Gamlen returns shortly with my pouch, now slightly dusty, and drops it into my outstretched hand. He pauses before closing the door.
"Will you be... traveling alone, then?"
So he has noticed the lack of companions. I'm slightly surprised; he's never shown a whit of interest in the company I keep. I was under the impression my friends were little more than place holders in his mind, completely inconsequential. I only nod in confirmation. I don't care to explain that my grief is too raw to share with Isabela and Varric. Or that it would simply make Merrill uncomfortable. Or that Avaline is too... Avaline and Anders is far too lost to his own ambitions. Or that I would rather walk through the Void itself than burden Fenris with my sorrows when he already has enough of his own. Avaline tried, after the funeral, and I did appreciate it. But she's not the sort to understand 'Thank you, but I'd rather curl up in a ball and die' so I'd said my thanks and tried to make it seem like she was helping.
Gamlen tilts his head, considering. "I won't say much other than... be careful." For a moment I can see the pain on his face. I nod again and he quietly closes the door.
After securing the pouch against my belt I follow the winding streets out of the city. Kirkwall is eerily silent in the mornings before the merchants have set out their wares. I only meet with a handful of other souls, mostly servants running clandestine errands. They duck past me as I make my way, intent on their purpose. I keep my stride steady until I reach my destination. The sun has risen fully although it is not yet mid-morning. For all my joking and all of Varric's grousing, the Wounded Coast actually has some desolate beauty to it when one isn't distracted by fighting against mercenaries or slavers. Or blood mages. Or Tal-Vashoth. I let out a weary sigh. When did my life become this?
I lay out my cloak near the shore and remove my old leathers, creating a neat bundle. My daggers I unsheathe and set to the side, well within reach should trouble arise. The wind off the water blows around my tunic and breeches as I turn to face the sea. Somewhere across that great expanse is Ferelden, and within the brown and the cold dwell my father's people. I feel my heart constrict at the thought. I had told Fenris that I stayed because my family was here. Now my words are only a sad lie. I am alone. Father, lost to illness; Bethany and Carver, both taken by darkspawn; And now Mother. Mother. I sink to my knees and cover my face as a sob wells up within me.
Mother making faces at Carver to break him out of a mood.
Mother laughing at Bethany and me as we try to catch firebugs outside the house.
She and Father talking quietly in the evenings.
Smoothing my hair out of my face, her hand tracing the mark on my left cheek.
Assuring me that I would grow into my responsibilities, instilling confidence in me.
Mother reading to Bethany, distracting her from her first fireball wound.
Her fury when Carver hid a toad in my bed. Or nailed Bethany's braid to it.
Her scent, her laugh, her hands. Never again.
My mother is dead.
My heart is broken.
I draw a shaky breath and try to gather myself. I still carry her ashes. Standing, I loosen the pouch from my belt and walk out into the ocean. With the surf sliding gently around my boots, I struggle to remember the words from Father's rite. I stand tall and recite them with as much strength as I can manage.
"Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. For the dust must return to the ground, and the spirit must return to that which gave it. Such as you are, so we shall be..."
It is not the full rite, but it will do. I draw the string from the pouch and watch as my mother's ashes slowly melt into the sea. "Take her away," I whisper to the waves. "Take her away from this place and all its sorrows."
My vision blurs again with unshed tears as I walk back to my belongings. I fall in a heap next to them and draw my knees up to my chin. It's almost mid-day but I have no desire to journey back. I stare out at the ocean and let my mind wander over my memories. I can feel the tears sliding down my face but I make no effort to hide them. I am alone and now it's my turn to grieve.